13 May, 2007
Al Hunter Ashton, the top writer and top actor, died way too early recently and like anyone who ever knew him, I'm gutted.
I was just starting out and had joined the Theatre Writers Union (which later amalgamated with the Writers' Guild). I'd noticed Al's name on credits because the quality of his writing stood out and so when I phoned the Union with a problem I was surprised to find it was Al speaking to me. I've always been fanboy geeky about writers I admire and so was more lost for words then usual. He found out I was from Birmingham and we had a chat about the city and the mighty Blues.
My problem was that I had sent a theatre company a script of mine but a year and a half later they hadn't replied or anything. I wasn't sure of the etiquette as I didn't want to be banned from the industry for asking what was going on (oh, those innocent cowardly days). Al phoned them and I got my script back with an apology and some comments within a week. That story encapsulates how I'll remember him: friendly, passionate, supportive and cutting through the bullshit.
The Guardian obituary